Arsenal are preparing a bid for Bayer Leverkusen's midfield enforcer Lars Bender.

The Daily Express says Arsenal had a £19m bid rejected out-of-hand by the Bundesliga club last summer, with Bender subsequently penning a new deal.

However, the Gunners have maintained a watching brief this past season and will try again this month to convince Bayer to sell.

Bender would act as a long-term replacement for the ageing Mikel Arteta, who is said to be too lightweight by some Arsenal fans.

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